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[Excavating-Q] Disappearance of Q

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  • John Kloppenborg
    Wieland Willker asks about the disappearance of Q. First, is its disappearance an argument against Q. Hardly. We know that various other documents
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2000
      Wieland Willker asks about the disappearance of Q.

      First, is its "disappearance" an argument against Q. Hardly. We know that
      various other documents disappeared: the earlier letter Paul sent to the
      Corinthians (unless there is a bit of it preserved in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1); the
      letter to the Laodiceans (Col 4:16). Moreover, there are single manuscripts
      or citations of documents that have turned up by sheer luck, that we would
      not even have suspected to have existed, since they are not mentioned in
      patristic literature (Secret Mark, for example--there are, by the way, new
      photography showing the margins just published in *The Fourth R*). From the
      point of view of logic, the fact that Q has gone missing is not particularly
      probative *if* there are other grounds for concluding to its existence. For
      example, we do not have an independent copy of the Two Ways document that is
      now found embedded in the Didache, the Doctrina Apostolorum, and the
      Apostolic Constitutions. But the document can be reconstructed from these
      three. Yes, the "original" has gone missing, but sensible analysis of
      successor documents strongly suggests that it existed.

      Second, why did it go missing? Herr Willker's suggestion that is was simply
      happenstance is a good one. Dieter Luehrmann pointed out the since virtually
      all of our literary remains of the Jesus movement from the first couple of
      centuries comes from Egypt and is preserved because of physical conditions
      in Egypt, the failure of Q to be copied in Egypt would guarantee its
      disappearance (except in successor documents).

      G.D. Kilpatrick argued that Q disappeared because it was completely (or near
      completely) absorbed by MAtthew and Luke. By this logic, of course, Mark
      should also have disappeared. J. Dunn wondered whether it wasn't recopied
      because it was seen as somehow too susceptible to gnosticizing distortions.
      But one then wonders why John survived, since its earliest commentator was

      In the end I don't find the attempts to provide a logic for Q's
      disappearance very convincing, since those logics inevitably create many
      problems in accounting for the transmission of other documents and they try
      to create "reasons" (rather selectively) for the accidents of history. In
      any case, the disappeance of Q is no more probative for its original
      existence than the disappearance of the original Two Ways document.

      (I discuss this issue briefly in ExQ, pp. 367-68)


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